NVWT marker for Mary E. Britton

Randolph Hollingsworth (she/her) Contribution

Image for National Votes for Women Trail marker for Dr. Mary E. Britton - located at St James African Methodist Episcopal Church, 124 E. Walnut Street, Danville KY 40422 @37.6442419,-84.7688756

The marker content states: "Dr. Mary E. Britton, physician & teacher spoke here at 1887 State Assoc. of Colored Teachers meeting advocating women's suffrage. Speech in national newspaper. (William G. Pomery Foundation 2018, [marker no.] 4)

Dr. Mary Ellen Britton (April 16, 1855-August 27, 1925) was born a free person in a slaveholding state and was, like many of her siblings, highly educated. She began her professional career as a teacher and a member of the State Association of Colored Teachers which served as an important group for civil rights and progressive ideas for blacks at the time. She spoke on woman suffrage at the Association’s convention in Danville in 1887, emphasizing the fact that women had been taxed but not represented in government. Her speech was later published in The American Catholic Tribune - the only Catholic newspaper owned and published by African Americans. Britton believed that men and women are expected to work together to government since they would bring different backgrounds to enact better laws. Her work as a journalist expanded her reach on raising up issues of social reform and social equality for African Americans in a time when Jim Crow laws were being enacted across the country. She was a founding director of the Colored Orphans Industrial Home in Lexington and president of the Women’s Improvement Club, affiliate of the Kentucky Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. She left Kentucky to study at Chicago’s American Missionary College of Medicine, graduating with specialties in hydrotherapy, electrotherapy and massage. She was officially granted her license to practice medicine in Lexington in 1902, making her the first woman doctor to be licensed in Lexington.


"Colored Teachers: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the State Association in Session at Danville." The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), Sunday, July 10, 1887, page 10.

Britton, Mary E. “Woman’s Suffrage: A Potent Agency in Public Reforms,” The American Catholic Tribune, July 22, 1887, p.1, cols. 3-5.

McDaniel, Karen Cotton. "Mary Ellen Britton: A Potent Agent for Public Reform," The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies 23: 1 (Spring 2013), 52-61.

Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_E._Britton#/media/File:Mary-eleanor-britton.jpg